Education Overview: Broadcasting Vet Evans Is Critical of Broadcast Training
Dave Evans runs Vantedge Consulting Group. The Sports Emmy and Telly Award winner was most recently director of broadcasting for the Dallas Mavericks, guiding the team’s transition to HD broadcasting, and had previously worked in production, director, executive and announcing positions within the NBA. He has a particularly good vantage point from which to survey the state of sports-broadcast education and, quite frankly, doesn’t much like what he sees.
“There is just little or no training at all available out there, especially for freelancers, and that’s a problem,” he states. “A big problem.”
A lengthy white paper he recently published, “The Dilemma of Training Live Sports Crews,” suggests that training is inconsistent across the industry, availability of what training there is can be spotty, and the industry is inefficiently using both its existing core of trained veterans and its growing base of aspiring acolytes, in part because sports broadcasting is so highly localized.
Evans is pleased to see such initiatives as the DTV Audio Group’s online training — which is funded largely by sports divisions at TBS, NBC, and Fox — and programs offered by several schools — such as Full Sail, a handful of colleges, and even some high schools — and by companies like NEP and ESPN. But he says access to some of these types of programs is limited by cost and location, especially for freelancers. (The DTV Audio Group’s program is online and accessible via the Internet but thus far has only one topic module, on loudness; future modules are planned on such topics as serial digital, embedded, and MADI audio-signal management and multiplatform-compatible production strategy.)
“But, in the end, the initiative is almost exclusively up to the individual, the freelancer,” he says. “There’s no centralized resource that the industry can tap into.”
That’s true. A query to the National Association of Broadcasters headquarters in Washington confirmed that the NAB does not sponsor any formal training programs at all; the organization’s annual trade show offers “Pits”: targeted areas on the exhibit floor designed to offer educational experiences made up of 20-minute sessions presented mostly by exhibiting companies, according to NAB VP of Communications Ann Marie Cumming.
Compare that with, for instance, InfoComm, the non-profit trade group for AV-systems integrators, the cohort that, among other types of projects, designs and installs sound and video systems in sports venues and broadcast studios. It runs an extensive education and certification program for its 5,000-plus membership, including 29 in-person classes, 11 online classes, and nine virtual-classroom courses as part of InfoComm University’s curriculum, not to mention several hundred classes offered at trade shows around the world.
Evans’s white paper points out that the demands on live-sports technicians are growing at a time when the training lacks the momentum to keep up. “Multiplatform streams, 5.1 surround audio, the integration of IT technology, and the almost constant influx of new innovations are making each broadcast more challenging to produce,” he writes. “Additionally, there is increasing pressure for local and regional telecasts to be almost indistinguishable from their national-network counterparts in terms of the final on-air product. To pull this off, high levels of expertise are needed from each position on the crew, especially given the shorter set schedules typical for local and regional telecasts. If significant positions in the workforce are lacking in quality or quantity, the ability to meet the high standard becomes difficult to impossible.”
The big disconnect is between the expanding knowledge-base requirements for sports broadcasting and the training that will be necessary to fill it. That, Evans says, is a looming crisis; a word, he says, he doesn’t use lightly. “We’re not at that point yet, but we’re approaching it if we don’t pay [more] attention to training.”
He suggests that the industry agree on some kind of hub around which communication, curricula, and logistics about training could be organized. “Networks, teams, leagues, colleges, vendors, freelancers, etc., would all have a role, but no single entity would be fully responsible for implementing the program,” he writes. “Instead, the [hub] organization would draw from the expertise and knowledge of these various groups, perhaps through the formation of a committee or board of advisors. Then, this hub organization could organize and develop the input into a unified training program. The process could be regionalized, then duplicated across the country and in other countries.”
He acknowledges that “we’ve got a start, with the various programs that are in place. But we’re going to need more.”